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10 Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day On a College Budget

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Here's a confession from a closet romantic: I haven't had the most romantic Valentine's Days during my collegiate career. Last year was spent in a Student Government court hearing; this year will be spent at a Model Arab League conference in Houston. I don't have a habibi, but if I did, it wouldn't be all roses and chocolate.

What I mean is that on Valentine's Day, you can't go off of love or casual crushing alone. These days, you'd better have something prepared. There's plenty of fish in the sea for college dating, but don't let the pressure swallow you up.

I get it: You don't have the time or energy to write a love poem (unless you're a liberal arts geek) and you're not made out of money (unless you're a check-writing Greek). Rest assured that after this Valentine's Day, you won't have to eat ramen to cover a dinner for two at Texas de Brazil.

Here's ten ways to show your sweetheart that you're not made of money but love.

1. Mixtape or playlist

Ah, the mixtape. Didn't know people still made these? I didn't either until my friend revealed she was secretly a mixtape DJ. According to her, there's an art to making the perfect mixtape: the selection, order and flow of songs reveals an intimate knowledge of the recipient. This lovely tradition was lost when the tape was, but you can modify it to modern media. Burning a CD or even sending a Spotify playlist will show just as much soul-savvy. You don't have to stand outside of anyone's dorm and blare your mixtape, but you may be the best valentine/John Cusack impersonator ever if you did.

2. Share a banana split (or froyo)

Chappelle has not only mastered a cult comedy show but also the perfect cheap date. It's not as bananas as it seems: I did it and savored the experience. There's plenty of ice cream and banana to go around, and sharing is caring. The collegiate version of this may be to mix some froyo flavors. That way, you can tailor the flavors and toppings to your liking. Or you can just sample all the flavors, that's always fun too (I'm looking out for your wallet here).

3. Watching the sunset/sunrise in a scenic spot

Really? Why don't you just take a long walk on the beach, listen to a Michael Bolton CD and call it a day? Hey, you can never watch the same sunset twice, which is exactly the sap you'll need to get your date to agree to this. Seeing as we're in college, seeing the sunrise after an all-nighter may be more realistic. Change it up a bit by going to your favorite spot on campus or in town. At LSU, I'd head to the levee to watch the sun set on the mighty Mississippi. Think romantic in the 19th century sense.

4. Borrow a collection of love letters from the library

I get it: you're not an English major. Even if you are, you probably don't have time to write a love letter. Luckily for you, I'm sure your college library has an anthology of them. When your valentine questions why you're professing love from someone else's pen, reply with -- wait for it -- "because I couldn't have said it better myself." Mr. Big pulled this one and it worked on Carrie, a New York journalist, so it'll probably impress your valentine. If you're an English major, you should probably come up with an alternate excuse.

5. Have a House of Cards watching marathon/snuggle session

Haven't seen House of Cards yet? Here's something else to obsess over (besides your sweetheart, of course). This is one of those television shows buzzing around campus, and conveniently enough, season 2 premieres this Friday. Netflix-binge with your boo and catch up on the juiciest secrets from The Hill. For all you budding romances/nervous freshmen: this is a great time to work in some cuddling. Or if you're in junior high-mode still, you might start making out during the show. Netflix does have a pause button so your lip-locking doesn't have to.

6. Show him/her/the world it's "official"

The best gift you could give may be to just tell that person you want them as your valentine. Take it a step further and let everyone know that's your valentine. Here at LSU, we have a time-honored tradition of kissing in front of the Memorial Tower at midnight on Valentine's Day. Once you do this, you're officially considered an "LSU couple." If that's not your style, you and your valentine can troll such couples. If your university doesn't have such a tradition, you could always profess your undying love in the student union or quad.

7. Tell someone how you feel in a different language

Sometimes you don't even have the right words to express how you feel -- so try another language. The first time I told someone I loved him was by writing "Je t'aime" on his palm. I didn't explain what it meant, but I told him to look it up when he got home. With all the mixed signals that come with courtship, this is a way to say what you mean and leave the rest to Google Translate. Whether you use the "language of love" or not (I suggest you do), this is a chic way of letting your amour know how you feel.

8. Use your guitar-playing abilities for serenades (like you do the other 364 days of the year)

When my cousin was at Indiana University, he mentioned playing his guitar for girls and instantly making them swoon. As a female, I can attest to its appeal. Okay, so no one has serenaded me on guitar (yet), but it would be pretty fantastic if someone did. If you have some guitar or instrumental skills, here's the time to shine.

9. Order a pizza with a heart made out of pepperonis

You're probably thinking, "Wow, she's just running out of ideas here." Maybe so. But tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperonis in a heart-shaped formation may be the best ways to express your feelings this Valentine's Day. After all, this day is about love. Happiness. Destiny! All nouns that come to mind when eating pizza. I'm not a math major, but I'm pretty sure pizza + Netflix = true love.

10. Use your campus cash for gifts

At LSU, those who purchase a meal plan have an allotted amount of Paw Points, which is essentially lunch money locked onto your student ID. When I was a freshman living in the dorms, I liked to refer to this as "free money." It isn't, but you can't spend it anywhere else, so why not splurge? Maybe you can treat you and yours to some fancy Chick-Fil-A or Starbucks. Here, you can actually buy filet mignon with Paw Points. Whatever your campus cash can get, I say go for it. Your sweetie knows it's the love that counts -- but the on-campus treats don't hurt either. If your valentine isn't a freshman or on-campus resident, you can start planning ahead for next year.

These should keep your heart and wallets overflowing this Valentine's Day. I recommend combining at least three of them for maximum effect. I know I'd fall for any guy who ordered me pizza, sent me a playlist and watched House of Cards with me. Whether it's been one week or one year, you can skimp on the cost if you compensate for it in thought.

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